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On Christian Unity in England and Wales

1/24/2007 - 6:05 AM PST

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Interview With Monsignor Andrew Faley

ROME, JAN. 24, 2007 (Zenit) - The meeting last November between Benedict XVI and the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury was a reminder that we must make efforts to understand one another, says a British priest working for Christian unity.

Monsignor Andrew Faley, the assistant general secretary of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, made this observation in an interview with us.

He discussed his own experience at the visit of Archbishop Rowan Williams to the Vatican.

Q: How would you describe the present state of the relationship between Catholics and Anglicans at the local level in England and Wales?

Monsignor Faley: The relationship between Catholics and Anglicans locally are generally very good because of the common source of the understanding of Church and a very close affection for liturgy, prayer and worship.

The two cooperate as much as they would with other Christian traditions in supporting local community projects towards the poor, the housebound, the elderly, the sick, those without homes and families who find themselves in difficult circumstances. They are very supportive of one another in that regard.

I think the work of the Association of Interchurch Families, particularly with regard to Catholics and Anglicans who have married and are bringing up their children through the richness of both traditions, is a wonderful example of close cooperation between the two communions and the great fruits borne from such cooperation, notwithstanding the difficulties that we still face with regard to intercommunion.

Q: What is your overall impression of the visit of the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to Rome? What do you think is a possible fruit of this meeting for ecumenism?

Monsignor Faley: During the week of the archbishopís visit to the Holy See and to the Holy Father, I accompanied the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, as his chaplain. The cardinal was there as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, but also as a very close friend and dear brother of the archbishop of Canterbury.

It was a very affectionate and warm visit, and was very clear that the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, and the archbishop, Rowan Williams, recognized a common source of vocation and ministry as bishops, which was very well received and celebrated, particularly in the various ecumenical activities during the week. These gave a very helpful message of deep unity and understanding that clearly exists between both the Anglican and Catholic communions.

In Rome and particularly, in the Holy See, the special relationship that there is between the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England was also recognized.

The Holy See relies quite a bit on the ways in which our bishops cooperate with the Church of England bishops in order to understand the nature, purpose and direction that the Church of England is taking and has taken in previous years.

The cardinal has a very particular role to play in that regard, particularly concerning the relationship between the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Thatís not at all to try and avoid the difficulties and problems that still remain in terms of full unity, notwithstanding the Anglican Communionís decisions as it moves toward the possible ordination of women as bishops.

The richest fruit was the celebration of a common heritage and deep respect for each otherís traditions. For ecumenism, generally, it was a reminder to all of us that we must make efforts to understand the other and not to take for granted how we do understand the Christian from the other tradition.

We need to live with them, as well as pray, study and talk with one another. We canít do one without the other and I think itís very much wrapped up in Cardinal Kasperís promotion of spiritual ecumenism as a very good way forward. Quite specifically, it did come out from the meeting between the Holy Father and the archbishop of Canterbury that this particular fruit of closer, more spiritual cooperation ecumenically is a good thing and is to be promoted.

Q: What was the response of the Anglican Church in England to the visit between the heads of the two Churches? How did British media cover the event?

Monsignor Faley: Although in Rome it was covered quite well and generally in Europe -- as far Iím aware -- it was covered reasonably well, in England, it was hardly covered at all. I donít think it would have grabbed headlines exactly, but it didnít receive any real space.

The response of the Anglican Church in England to the visit between the two heads has been muted, probably because in most peopleís minds in England the preoccupation of the problems that face the ...

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